West Face of El Cap


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 45 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Trad climber
St. Charles, MO
Topic Author's Original Post - May 8, 2009 - 08:51am PT
My partner and I are planning to climb this route in June. Does anyone have beta on which guide has the most accurate topo?
Any pictures of the route that could be emailed or posted would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Tim
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
May 8, 2009 - 08:54am PT
PM Nanook?
t is for trad

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
May 8, 2009 - 09:43am PT
i did this route last summer, great line, nothing quite like it in the valley. we used the topo from the falcon guide and it was pretty accurate. I would say that the only confusing part was topping out. after the last five ten pitch, once you get to thanksgiving ledge, we went hard left and it seemed like the 5th class went on for a while until it turned into 4th class and even that went on for a ways. we ended up bivying when it got dark. but on second thought another tricky pitch is the one after the downclimb. the guidebook i think even shows two cracks, make sure to take the one on the right! hike up to ribbon falls and you'll get a really good view of it and the topo will make more sense. I have some pictures but not readily available, if you PM me your email i might be able to send you a link. There are so many good pitches on this route, the .11 pitches are great, a little heady to lead if you're going for the free onsight but safe. I remember the top of the first 11c pitch being run out and scary but i think i was to in the zone then to realize it. have fun!!
Erik Sloan

May 8, 2009 - 09:52am PT
There is a great new topo, with linking beta for a 70m rope which I can't find the link too right now. Anyone got it?

This route is awesome. If you do find the linking beta I would avoid linking the two pitches to Thanksgiving (for that matter I think most mortals will find the first 2 pitches pretty hard to link). Though it's doable it's a super long 70m pitch with rope drag.
The easy links are pitches 4/5 and 6/7 in the Reid guide

Having climbed El Cap a bunch the top out was pretty cruiser, just plan on a solid 45-60 minutes from the top of the 5th class to the top of the Nose. FYI:You'll walk downhill a bunch to the top of the Nose.

Looked like it was still wet up there yesterday.


Trad climber
El Portal, CA
May 8, 2009 - 10:14am PT
Ahhhhh what a great route. Did it in mid-July when it was hotter than hell. We used the Reid topo and it seemed fine. Enjoy!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 8, 2009 - 10:38am PT
Hi Tim, here is the original written route description from the green Roper. It is interesting and useful also and describes the route before it was climbed free. I did the fourth ascent of it in August 1971.

VI, 5.9, A4. TM Herbert and Royal Robbins, June
1967. The first ascent of this 2,000-foot face,
done in very wet weather, took four and a half days.
Only one bolt was placed. Climb up the EI Cap-West
Chimney route until under the face, then begin
climbing from a large block between two steep
sections of the chimney. Free climbing ends at
discontinuous crack and flakes leading up and right.
then up and left to a good belay ledge. Nail a thin
arch which curves left, move left using skyhooks,
then climb up to a sling belay in a recess. Pitch 3: nail
an AI crack in a dihedral for 50 feet, then move right
and nail a slab. A bit of free climbing leads to a belay
ledge. An easy class 5 pitch leads up 60 feet to a good
belay ledge. Next, go up and left around a corner
(nuts are helpful amid loose blocks), then continue
straight up (ignoring a huge arch leading fight) on
mixed climbing. This leads to a large ledge. Pitch 6:
from the left part of the ledge nail to a sling belay in
a corner. Continue nailing then move
to a narrow ledge with all anchor bolt.

A short free section leads to a crack on the right
which is nailed to a ledge. Pitch 9' climb free up and
Tight to a horizontal crack. Nail to the right about 40
feet, turn a corner and drop down 3S feet in a groove
to a belay alcove. Climb down a ramp leading right
for 10 feet, then nail up and slightly left for perhaps
100 feet. Traverse free to the right and belay in slings.
Above, do not nail the left-hand crack but rather one
which goes more or less straight up. After some easy
nailing, proceed up mainly free to a belay stance.
Pitch 12 is short, fairly easy and ends on a ledge with
a block. Next, climb free up a crack which diagonals
left; then, when the crack ends, traverse left and
climb up to a small belay ledge. Mixed aid and
jamming leads up and somewhat left to a loose block.
Avoid this by manteling right, then climb to a huge

Nail a crack which lies 30 feet left of a prominent
dihedraL When the crack ends, nail to the right in a
horizontal crack leading into the dihedral and belay
in slings a bit higher. On the 16th pitch nail to a small
Ledge. Next, climb up and right to Thanksgiving
Ledge. Walk left 50 feet left, then climb a 5.6 pitch to a
broken area. Continue up past a bush to the base of a
flared chimney. Move left to a bushy area, then
proceed up to a belay stance atop a pillar. The final
pitch goes up a flared gully, then traverses up and
right across the face to the rim. Iron: 45-50 pitons,
up to 3". Nuts are helpful and several cliffhangers are

Trad climber
WAS Auburn CA, NOW Seattle WA
May 8, 2009 - 12:04pm PT
one of my favorite routes in the valley!

the burly second pitch.

after the 5.7 traverse you do the slightly runout 5.10 pitch.

last pitch before thanksgiving ledge.

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
May 8, 2009 - 12:52pm PT
Nice pics........Woot!
Erik Sloan

May 8, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
Is that the easiest way to do the 5.10 traverse?

We couldn't tell so Alec just busted straight right(pretty sure his feet were on the ledges you see in the foreground in the photo). I, being light of course, lowered over to the easier ground.
Erik Sloan

May 8, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
Here's Alec making the last 10d pitch(2 down from Thanksgiving) look way too easy.

Alec later, "Oh, I thought that section was 5.9 in the topo and was thinking man, I must be kinda worked."

Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 8, 2009 - 01:53pm PT
I kind of wondering what kind of beta you would need that's not on Reid (Falcon) or Supertopo versions. I found the route really straightforward. I wanders a bit above Thanksgiving Ledge but it's pretty easy. If you've dispatched the lower pitches then the upper part won't be a problem. Most of the hard pitches you can french free if you need to. Nothing really heads up on the route. Some might say the upper part of the second pitch is, but when I did it there were so many fixed heads, you could just grab one and yard your way out of trouble.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
May 8, 2009 - 01:56pm PT
did this in 1988, onsight free in a day. what i remember most was that the first two 5.11 pitches felt much easier than i thought they'd be. i blew the belay at the top of the 5.11c finger crack pitch -- i wound up setting up a hanging belay off of a single hangerless 1/4" bolt and a bunch of not-so-great tiny wires; i was maybe 20 - 30 feet short of a big ledge. today's longer ropes would remedy that problem.

i recall being totally pumped on the last couple of 5.10ish pitches. i also remember that the exposure goes away after the 11c finger pitch, and that was a shame because it was just starting to feel airy. mostly i remember it as being one of the best single days of climbing i enjoyed in the valley. quite the adventure for me -- i was never much one for those really long routes.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 8, 2009 - 04:11pm PT
as a free climb, the second pitch is capable of spitting out nervous, intimidated, not-quite-ready-for-ElCap climbers and sending them back to the grade IVs. Of course, this is only what I've HEARD, you know, second hand from somebody else.
t is for trad

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
May 9, 2009 - 03:19am PT
i do remember that second pitch being a scary lead at some points. The 11 is right off the belay and not bad, but still, i was a wuss and french freed it. but the top part is dicey. Somone had given me some advice maybe a month before I got on the route, something about, when you are right of the crack and you come to a move that you think you could do, but you reaaaally don't want to do because you are run out above your gear (i remember at least 15 feet seperating me from my last piece at this point, that may be memory exaggerating though)step around left to some good holds. After testing this improble move for maybe five minutes while my hands were getting sweaty and my legs were starting to shake the memory of this advice comes floating back into my head as if from the cool afternoon breeze (memory creats such great poetry) and i looked left and right in front of my face was the way I'd been looking for all along.

Cheers to bvb doing it all free onsight, that was my goal but i just didn't have the stones. I got the first pitch free on top rope but that was about it. but even as we speak I'm gearing myself up for a second try.

As for that 5.10 traverse (after the downclimb right?) i don't remember going low at all like the picture shows, or maybe we had our belay down lower? possible. And I guess the topout wasn't actually bad at all, it was just dark and we really wanted to get off the route. We had been hauling stuff up with us all day which killed our time, i don't recommend that. Either do it all in a day or don't do it at all. then again We also fixed the first two pitches with one 70, which might make it go easier if you're not sure about doing it all in a day.

Social climber
Newport, OR
May 9, 2009 - 06:53pm PT
Yeah also did this onsight, free, no-falls, in a day with Erik Eriksson in '81 (or was it '82 "E") It's really a fun route!

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
May 9, 2009 - 07:10pm PT
i suppose it's worth mentioning that when i did it i had a super-strong partner -- john wason -- and the psychological safety net that having an el cap veteran and one of my best freinds as a ropemate ensured that i'd climb without fear all day. so, if you can, bring a rope gun along with you. knowing you can wuss out any time you want and get a top rope on every single pitch sure frees you up to push yourself!
Ron Raimonde

Big Wall climber
May 10, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
We Climbed Realm of the flying monkeys in 88? Instead of the West face start, we climbed the first 4 pitches of Mr. Midwest at old school A3 and nothing gnarly. This ends at the West Face 4 anchors. Neither one of us was willing to do the 2nd pitch of West Face. I remember the exit being tons of work with our loads. RR

Big Wall climber
May 10, 2009 - 06:28pm PT
The w. face is one of my favorite routes in the valley. Lots of fun moderate climbing on very featured granite. On one pitch you climb over this 5' roof on huge jugs with huge exposure, and it's maybe 5.9 at most. Very unusual for yosemite. The cruxes are all well protected, and not too bad for the grades. The 5.10 face climbing after the big traverse halfway up seemed kinda heady, but maybe I didn't go the easiest way? It was the probably the only section harder than 5.9 that you couldn't A0 through if you wanted to. That topo Erik mentioned with the 70 M linking beta was really good, but I can't find it right now. I'm sure it's hiding somewhere out there on the internet... You can do the route with a pretty light rack, because there aren't any long sustained hand cracks and there is a fair bit of fixed stuff.
Thanks for this great day on the captain last fall Erik!

Trad climber
St. Charles, MO
Topic Author's Reply - May 21, 2009 - 12:11pm PT
Thanks to everyone for all of the info and pictures of the route. We are getting psyched to go out and give it a go. Any more stories or pictures would be great to keep the stoke level high! I'll be sure to post a trip report when we get back.

May 21, 2009 - 12:21pm PT
Yeah, this route rules. Nice photos Pato!! Did it in November... was on the 5.9 pitch described above with the jugs, about 5 pitches from the top or so, right as the sun was setting (my partner at the time refused to get up before 9 for any route no matter how long).... somehow my old beater Tikka headlamp opened up and the batteries came tumbling out. Mid-lead and run-out, I caught two of the batteries with my one free hand but the third one got away.... "AIIGHHH!!!" Spent the rest of the day (and night) climbing up to 5.8 in total darkness, batmanning up the rope between stances on the harder stuff, and stumbling down the east ledges in the spare light of my partner's headlamp... fun fun.

Anyway, anyone ever descend off the west side of el cap? Apparently you can walk off in that talus gully between Ribbon Falls and EC with no rappelling....?
Messages 1 - 20 of total 45 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo Videos

Recent Route Beta